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If I am married…
Why am I doing everything alone?
I wondered this so often throughout my brief, but isolating marriage. When I moved to Canada, I really knew what I was giving up. I’d made a major move away from family before and I knew how scary it can be, and how alone it can make one feel.
But this time would be different.
After all, we were married—I shouldn’t have to go through anything alone ever again. And the part of me that has been desperate for love and has craved companionship since I can remember… this sounded like the most precious gift to me.
I found myself more alone than I could imagine.
Because how do you reach out to your family or friends and tell them you're struggling in your marriage? In the end, you know what the response will be...
Marriage is hard and marriage takes work.
And believe me, I worked.
The expectations I had going in to the marriage were of a partnership. Looking back on it, I am sure I expressed this… I’m sure we had an agreement.
I moved to Canada, a different country—separating myself from my family and throwing myself into a new one. When I expressed my feelings of solitude or how much I missed my family, I was told:
“This is what women do. You have a new family now.”
This broke my heart, but I tried to adapt because I do believe that when you’re married the other person’s family also becomes your own. What I didn’t realize is that the person I thought was my partner now expected me to maintain relationships with his family and with my family on his behalf and mine.
He lied to me.
I didn’t know until I was in Canada and through customs that I would be living alone with his parents for the summer while he was away on a research project. He waited to tell me until we were in a public place with his parents, so I wasn’t able to react. I felt betrayed. How could I not? Later, he admitted,
“I knew if I told you, you wouldn’t come.”
And why was that? That was because, quite frankly, his mother could be so unkind to me. Her words could be cruel and unfeeling, and then later I would receive some form of gift. I was always told:
“That’s just how she is. She really loves you.”
Not even realizing until three years later that this is exactly the kind of rhetoric abusers use to perpetuate their cruelness.
I wanted to go home.
I felt like I couldn’t get a grasp on reality, because my mind was screaming at me that all of this was wrong and I couldn’t stay.
But I was married. Marriage is hard. Marriage takes work.
I became sick. I couldn’t keep food down for months. I broke out in incredibly painful rashes. Every night I locked myself in the bathroom to cry.
Later when we moved, I felt blessed relief. Now, things would get better. This was the issue from the beginning. I believed I had done all of the right things. I did not put my husband in the middle of the arguments with his mother. I tried to handle them myself and create a bond with her, because all relationships take work, and this one would too.
I kept working. I worked at moving us in to each apartment we moved into. Because he had a job and I didn’t yet, the house work, the cooking, the moving all of our belongings from place to place and unpacking—these things were my responsibility. I accepted that, so I didn’t realize how exhausted I was becoming by doing absolutely everything to make an unhappy person happy. And I just kept telling myself, this is why people say:
"Marriage is hard. Marriage takes work."
I didn’t realize how hard I was working at keeping everyone happy, how much my daily phone calls to his mother, how much me trying to make sure he was met at the door (because if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t speak to me for hours—regardless of what I was doing when he walked in), how much everything was completely draining me.
Until I got a full time job.
Every time we moved, proximity to his job mattered the most. If I was commuting over an hour to work one way, that was expected. “You don’t work as hard as he does,” his mother would tell me. He never disagreed. But if he was further than 15 minutes from work, he was miserable and nothing would cheer him up. I had no say in any of it.
In fact, as much as I pleaded with him to please just settle into a normal apartment and pay slightly more in rent, he insisted that we try temporary rentals. Doing so ended us up in a motel where drug dealing and usage was rampant. I had horrible nightmares, I barely slept, I was driving three hours of the day just to get to and from work, all the while trying to work in a professional setting without my colleagues knowing my living conditions.
This was the third time in my marriage I contemplated suicide to escape. And probably the hundredth time I wanted desperately to go home.
But marriage takes work. Marriage is hard. Nothing is easy when you first start out.
So I kept it up. I tried my best to work, cook, clean, commute for hours a day, and do all of the things that would keep him and his family happy. Slowly slipping away from my family.
As someone who had been a musician his whole career and was now adjusting to working a full time job, I understood why he needed more care and attention than I did. And how could I tell anyone how awful this was? How could I tell my family that I worked full time for the government and my husband was a scientist, yet we almost ended up living in a campground, because he wanted to save money?
And then, when I was home for Thanksgiving, visiting my family (alone, of course) and contemplating if I was ready to leave… my step dad was diagnosed with cancer and my carefully built world began to slowly crumble.
My perspective and priorities shifted and I genuinely believed all of this effort and standing by my husband will pay off.
Now he’ll be there for me.
But when I started talking about going home for an extended period of time to be with my family, his only concern was money and whether or not the stress would drive me to drink.
He hugged me once.
The time between my step dad’s diagnosis and when he passed is incredibly private and sacred and is not alone my story to tell. But suffice it to say that I never received that support and love I so desperately craved from a partner. I realized that if during the most tragic life experience I had to date, he could not support or love me through it, he would never be able to.
I have never felt so alone in my life, questioned my sanity, or doubted my value more than I did during this time. And I still constantly worry that people who I love very dearly think I gave up too soon, that I did not try hard enough or that I am irresponsible.
But I have learned something incredibly important.
A person who truly loves and supports you will not take absolutely everything from you while giving nothing in return. Although marriage and relationships always have their ups and downs, and at times one person may need more love and support, a person who loves and supports you will not wear you down until you are so isolated and alone that the only way out suddenly feels like death.
Marriage should be for life, because it is a partnership and an agreement. Marriage is not easy. Marriage is hard.
But sometimes, divorce is absolutely the best choice. Divorce is better than spending your life questioning your sanity or allowing others to do so. Divorce is better than doubting your worth and value. Divorce is better than finding yourself counting the days until one of you dies so that you will finally be free of the mental torment you’ve been through
We all have value. We all have made mistakes. I genuinely believe that there is good in everyone. Yet, I also believe that I must look out for my own well-being and safety, even if it means making hard choices. And I believe that the same is true for everyone. People can change, this is true, but they must have the desire to do so. I have made many mistakes, I am not blameless, but I do hope I can improve and grow and learn from it all.
I must believe that it was all worth something. It always is.